Sylvatic plague is a flea-borne bacterial disease of wild rodents. Humans, pets, and wildlife can be afflicted with this disease. Prairie dogs are highly susceptible to plague and are the primary food source of the highly endangered black-footed ferret, which is also susceptible to the disease.
Sylvatic plague can decimate prairie dog colonies (90% or greater mortality rates), resulting in local extinctions and population reductions. USGS scientists are working with partners to conduct field trials of an oral sylvatic plague vaccine for prairie dogs. This management tool could be used to reduce the occurrence of plague outbreaks in wildlife.